As I’ve mentioned many times, I used to be firmly entrenched in Pentacostal/Charismatic circles. As Michael noted in his last post, that while non-Charismatics have an expectation for God to move in their lives, there seems to be a higher level of expectation amongst Charismatics. I think that’s true and something that I actually applaud as evidenced in this post here that I did some time back, An Ode to Pentacostalism. I think that is something I will always treasure and keep with me.
However, during my time as a Charismatic, it seems that this higher level of expectation always resulted in a quest for more. We needed a greater happenings, more miraculous signs (not that anything I witnessed ever really qualified as such), more healing, more deliverance, more prophecies, generally a greater move of God. Whatever was existent never seemed to be enough. Since I served on the worship team for four years (keyboards/vocals), the expectation was that we would serve as the catalyst to make this happen, to “usher in the presence of God”, as was stated so many Sundays. Naturally, one of my favorite “soft music” tunes to play was Michael W. Smith’s, More Love More Power. Yes we really did need more of God in our lives and looked for it in external manifestations in order to affect an internal change.
It seems to me there remained a continual state of dissatisfaction that only more could fill. And I have noticed that even in churches that do not necessarily carry the Charismatic label, but are very mainstream in their approach have fallen victim to the “more” mentality. The desire for church growth translates into more people, bigger churches, and more programs. To be sure, I had heard on several occasions that we know God is doing something when the seats start filling up and we outgrow the space.
But I wonder if the “more” mentality is an accurate reflection of the spiritual growth, deepened understanding and knowledge of Christ that the Biblical prescription for growth says should be ours. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that we should find superficial devotion and understanding unsatisfactory and that every day should be met with a quest for a deeper connection with God and a richer knowledge of Christ. Not just to know, but to have that knowledge lived out in tangible ways. But I question if the greater occurences we seek is symptomatic of a deeper spiritual quest or that fact that we just need more excitement in our lives. Things get mundane and we get bored.
And I especially raise this question in relation to Charismatic leanings since it does represent, based on my experience, a desire for inward revival based on outward means. Or sometimes it might just be the outward signs that point to the fact that God is up to something, that is demonstrated through a display of the sign gifts that many believe should be in existence everywhere today. So this is not to question the validity of the gift, but the motivation behind seeing them displayed. Are we earnestly seeking gifts to know Christ better and fulfill His program? Because it seems to me that possibly by equating the need for these demonstrations necessarily implies that what we have is insufficient. The Bible becomes a springboard to launch us into greater depths rather than being the instrument through which those greater depths are attained.
What is Sufficient?
One of the main reasons I stepped away from the Charismatic movement is that I began to see the transitional significance of Acts rather than it being the prescription that I had been taught. I started looking at the occurrences in Acts in context of God’s overall program of redemption, for the Jew first and then the Gentile, that Christ initiated through the cross and His subsequent ascension into heaven. I began to consider how the events displayed in Acts described what happened as this new way through Christ was introduced and the church implemented. Even then, I wrestled with the sign gifts for a good while.
A consideration of this overall context and the descriptive narrative of Acts forced me to re-examine the teaching of 2nd baptism. Undoubtedly the prima facie reading, when read in isolation, suggests this to be optional, that in Christ one would still have to obtain an additional empowerment, known as the 2nd baptism. After all, this is what happened to them. However, in light of the fact that what was equated with 2nd baptism (Acts 2:1-4), was really the first baptism as the church began, beginning with the Jews then incorporating the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-11:18). After all, the apostles had had Jesus with them, but He was going away with the promise of enablement for them to carry out His works and to testify of Him (John 14:26; 16:13-14). It does seem reasonable the Spirit would empower in this way for the new introduction into how people would relate to God. It also appears reasonable that although baptism occurred in manner in the beginning, when these passages are reconciled with other passages such as I Corinthians 12:13 and Galatians 3:27, it demonstrates an instantaneous baptism by and indwelling of the Spirit for every believer; an inward renewal to affect an outward change.
That means when the Holy Spirit baptizes a believer into the kingdom, the believer gets the fullness of the Holy Spirit; they get all the Spirit they are going to get. So there is a sufficiency of the indwelling of the Spirit. What then do we make of being filled with the Spirit? More Spirit? Being filled with the Spirit does not mean we get a greater degree of Spirit but rather allow the Spirit to have more of us. It is wielding control to the Spirit, so that He who bears the presence of God and the testimony of Christ, my reign in us, affecting God’s agenda and not ours. It is like having two substances in a container. You can’t increase the capacity of the container but you can shift the ingredients inside, so that by decreasing one, the other will occupy more space. Isn’t this why Paul says in Galatians 5:16-17 to follow after the Spirit, lest we be consumed by the desires of the flesh. There is an indirectly proportional relationship. The more of one you have, the less of the other.
I also find there is a sufficiency in Christ and it all starts with how God has made Himself known.
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He [the Son] is the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:1-3, NASB)
The transition is remarkable. God expressed Himself, He made Himself known to mankind through the prophets and through other vehicles such as dreams and visions, but now He is revealed in Christ. Revelation is a tricky word I think and one that, in my opinion, has been overused, misused and abused. We use it for any kind of discovery but I think that does a disservice to God’s revelation that He has purposed towards us. It is up to the one revealing to provide disclosure and we see the summation of His revelation in Christ. After all didn’t Jesus say, if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father? All things are summed up in Christ (Ephesians 1:10), all God’s purposes end in Christ (Ephesians 1:9; 3:11), all previous mysteries and plans are revealed in Christ (Colossians 1:26-27; Ephesians 3:5-6), and all instruction is for the purpose of completing every person in complete in Christ (Colossians 1:28). We who claim Christ as Savior have been made complete in Him (Colossians 2:10). That means He is all sufficient. What further are we looking for?
So what does that mean for us today? Does it mean that God is revealed in Christ and has left us hanging? No, because God saw fit to breathe out His word to us through the pens of 40 authors that testifies of this revelation through 66 books of inspired writing. As Geisler and Nix put it “the sacred Scriptures are expressive of the mind of God”…[they] are the God breathed revelation of God.”(General Introduction to the Bible, pg 34) So inspiration, another misused word, means God-breathed and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that this revelation inscribed for us, is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. This means it is sufficient. This means the search for further authoritative instruction can end. Christ sat down and sits at the right hand of God and we have His word. But the word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and invigorates the Spirit inside the believer for daily communion, internal revival, infectious living and purposed ministry to be ambassadors of Christ to a lost and dying world and selfless servants to each other.
So we have sufficiency of the Spirit, sufficiency of Christ, sufficiency of the Word.
I contend that the insufficiency resides with us. We are what is missing. It seems to me that if we have the everything we need sufficient for life and godliness, as 2 Peter 1:3 tells us, that the more we are seeking may not be found in greater external manifestations but a greater capacity for divine connectedness. So maybe that means more surrender, more worship, more learning, more kneeling, more prayer, more giving, and more service. We can’t get anymore of something we already have but I am assured each day that the Spirit can always have more of us in order to affect an external change through an inward renewal. And that, I believe was the intention all along.